'This Is 40': Judd Apatow Gets Real About Relationships (And 'LOST' And 'Heavyweights')

Judd Apatow Marriage This Is 40

There’s a huge musical element to the film — you hand-picked artists for the soundtrack, for cameos, and Graham Parker plays himself in a plot line. Were these just some of your personal favorite artists that you wanted to integrate into a project?
I always use making a movie as an excuse to meet with or work with people who I admire, so I thought, maybe this time I’ll ask people to write songs for the movie, because I never do that because I’m afraid to get the songs from somebody and not like it. Then what do I do, say, ‘Sorry, Bono – you didn’t do a good job.’ You never want to be in that position. But this time I took the script to a few people and talked about possible thematic ideas for songs, even song titles. Lindsey Buckingham wrote three songs, Fiona Apple wrote a song, Norah Jones wrote a beautiful song, and Graham Parker wrote a whole bunch of songs for us, and we took those songs and Jon Brion produced all of them. He put the Punch Brothers on almost all of them, and asked each artists to play a part on each others’ songs. He did that with every song, so it’s a very unique sounding soundtrack album.

He made a musical family!
He did — and a lot of him had never met each other, that’s the fun part about it. So we have this fantastic soundtrack and the score is based on the songs from the movie. The album is pretty great.

Speaking of family, and where the lines between on- and off-screen families blurred for you: I love Maude.
Me too!

I’d watch her do this character for an entire movie. And you give her some heavy lifting for a young performer. How did you develop that character from where we see her in Knocked Up into her teenage years, and where did that LOST obsession come from?
Two years ago Maude watched the entire series of LOST in about six weeks. She was crying all the time, she was listening to the soundtrack, and there’s a song they play when people die on the show and she would cry every time that song came on. So I thought it was funny but I was also terrified for her. I could tell it was too intense an experience but I was unable to stop her from getting to the end, so I just tried to slow it down. I knew I wanted to write about that in the movie because it does represent everything you have to deal with when you have a teenager; you don’t really understand their technology, you don’t know what’s too strict, you kind of think maybe you’re screwing them up because your rules aren’t correct.. . and I told Maude it’s a heightened version of who she is, so when she’s fighting with Iris she’s really brutal on Iris. In life she’s not that easy on Iris, for sure, but we made it more intense and have her be more emotionally out of control than she is in life. She’s really funny and gets the jokes, and when I explain what the scenes are about I can get Maude and Iris debating any point and they’ll really argue hard and be truly mad at each other in front of the cameras. They know it’s funny and they’re looking for ways to make the scene work, but they’re pissed.

I have a friend who really loves Heavyweights.
That came out on Blu-ray this week!

It did, by sheer coincidence. It happens to be the first movie you wrote. On the Blu-ray special feature there’s an interview with you circa 1995 with the most amazing hairdo, which I wish you still had.
I wish I did! It started going and I started going Friar Tuck. You don’t want to be the guy with the bald spot and long hair. You just can’t do that. I did it as long as I could. Then they start telling you when you have long hair it pulls your hair and makes your bald spot bigger, so you’ve got to go shorter to make the bald spot seem smaller.

Fair enough! Now, you wrote Heavyweights in the mid-90s, which also happens to be the time period that Paul Rudd’s Pete is stuck in, the heyday of his youth.
I wrote that movie with Steve Brill and he had just written the Mighty Ducks movies. It was that time in life when you have no responsibilities, so you can just go to a summer camp and shoot a movie, and it becomes your entire life. So we cared so much about it and had such a good time. The Ben Stiller Show was just cancelled so it was fun to work with Ben as the villain, and that’s where we met Kenan Thompson and Shaun Weiss. I gave Paul Feig a part as the counselor who used to be fat who’s skinny now.

His outfits are the best.
[Laughs] It was like going to camp! We always wanted to get it out on Blu-ray and Disney gave us a budget to find all the old deleted scenes and to make some documentaries and do a commentary. So it’s a wonderful gift for the Heavyweights fan.

That was This Is 20s for you, then. When you think back to the person you were back then in your twenties and thirties, do you feel very different a person now?
I don’t really feel that different — and that’s actually my problem, I kind of feel like I’m not making any progress. But I’m thrilled that I’ve had enough projects connect with people that we’ve been able to make things and it’s not as hard as it used to be when we had to beg people to let us work, and there was a lot of interference because we didn’t really have any power. Until you’ve made people money, nobody trusts you. That’s where their faith comes from. ‘Oh, well, his last movie did well so maybe he knows what he’s doing!’ Especially with comedy, because there’s no predicting if the jokes will work. There’s no predicting if these stories will work. So any debate about if a comedy is going to function doesn’t really make sense. If you said, ‘I’ve got this scene and there’s a guy who runs through a cafeteria and he fills his mouth up with white stuff and then smashes his cheeks and says, I’m a zit!’ most executives would go, ‘Really? We’re paying you to do that?’ But it’s one of the greatest jokes of all time. So when people have faith in you, it’s much easier to do the work.

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Comments

  • Jake says:

    What are those other movies we can rent? I like watching funny and entertaining movies, so your recommendation would be much appreciated, Mr. Apatow.

    - Jake

    PS Your film did stick in my craw. By that I mean, I couldn't stop thinking about how such a pretentious and clueless movie like This is 40 could be made.

  • AD says:

    I'm a big fan of Mr. Apatow's work, but even his best movie (Knocked Up) could have used a little bit more editing. I always say that there are great hour and forty-five minute movies buried in his four films, and while I enjoyed This Is 40 more than Funny People (even though I liked Funny People's premise and characters more) I still think it could have been tightened. That said, I think Apatow has, as a producer, brought us some of the best comedies to come out in recent years (Forgetting Sarah Marshall being the best, but also Step Brothers, Superbad, Anchorman, and Talladega Nights)

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